Friday, November 4, 2011

Porto Part II: La Mesa Restaurante

Our big dinner for the week, ranked in the top five of restaurants in Porto on tripadvisor, proved to have its highs and lows. The location was a bit tricky to get to, and we were late by nearly half an hour since we were counting on a cab being right near our hostel, but of course there weren't any. We ended up taking the subway to a more populated area and then hopping a cab from there. Already in bad moods the restaurant was tucked away in an apartment building. Literally an apartment building. Did not bode well in our minds....

However when we got out of the elevator we were greeted with an amazing room. Perfectly lit, aged wooden tables, intimate. It was just one of those rooms that instantly puts you in a good mood. Our hopes restored we apologized for our tardiness and proceeded into the dining room.

The menu was large, but we cut through it pretty easily and decided what we wanted fairly quickly. I ordered the foie gras stuffed with a plum compote and then the "traditional" Portuguese stew with monkfish and shrimp and fresh cilantro. I bold that because the cilantro was the first cilantro I had had since leaving the States. My girlfriend got a salad with grilled goat cheese, bacon and sun dried tomatoes and then ordered the braised veal cheek with turnip tops and potatoes.

We were sent an amuse bouche of a puffed pastry stuffed with goat cheese and honey. It was quite good, but would have liked the whole thing to be warm, somehow eating cold goat cheese was just not what I wanted to start with. Our first courses came out and they looked stunning. Another good sign for the night. The foie was creamy and delicious, but was set on some sort of sponge cake, which seemed like an odd choice. The plum compote provided the acid for an otherwise sweet and rich dish. The salad looked good, although the "bacon" tasted like was gone quickly so I assume that was a good thing.

What should darken our door but a goat cheese puff (literally, the picture is dark...)

Salt was a nice addition also, aged balsamic was of course delicious

A little broken, but it came in a huge cracker bowl, caught it just in time

Our main courses were next and again they were quite pretty to look at. My stew was quite good, although it was more or less a curry. Nice to have some really strong and bold flavors. The monkfish was tender and meaty while the shrimp were perfectly cooked. The cilantro brought a freshness to the dish that would have sorely missed it had it not been there. The only problem: my shrimp were not cleaned. I’m all for eating everything, but eating a poop vein is not my idea of a good time. It was gritty and there’s nothing worse than eating something delicious and then crunching down on some grit. 

More complete than I wanted them to be...

The veal cheek was fork tender, and the sauce it was in was delicious. Really you can't screw up anything slow braised. The turnip tops and potatoes melded beautifully together, the bitterness of the turnip greens paired with the creaminess of the potatoes. The dish was quite good, but was a little salty. 

Was the cherry (tomato) on top, almost

This is where the good part of the night ended. We declined desserts (too stuffed), as well as coffee/tea. We instead asked for the check. We waited for it. And waited. And waited. I flagged down our waitress and asked again. Again we waited, and waited. I caught her eye again and she nodded at me, indicating it would be right there. More waiting, more looks. Finally forty-five minutes later she came with the check, apologizing and saying that the machine had been broken so they had to write everything by hand. Five items (bottle of water too) took 45 minutes to write down? 

Final Grade: B, the food was pretty good, certainly for the quality of restaurant it was fairly cheap, however the 45 minute wait for our check proved to be fatal for this reviewer. Unfortunate for Mesa, and unfortunate for us, but hopefully they've hired a couple good writers.  

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